War crimes trial divides Bangladesh oppositionMarch 29th, 2011 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, March 29 (IANS) The impending trial of Bangladesh’s Islamists accused of colluding with the Pakistani authorities during the run-up to the 1971 freedom movement has divided the opposition.
Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) will not align with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, to launch any anti-government programme until the Jamaat top brass are cleared of charges of “war crimes”, the Daily Star Tuesday quoted BNP leaders as saying.
“War crimes” is the expression used to describe offences ranging from rape, loot, arson and killing of unarmed civilians by Islamist militia — Al Badr, Al Shams and Razakars who guided Pakistani soldiers to homes of political workers, artists, writers and the Hindus.
Five of the Jamaat’s top leaders, including its chief Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami, are in jail awaiting trial.
Nizami was a minister in the government headed by the BNP chief, Begum Khaleda Zia. She now has among BNP allies the Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), a conglomerate of smaller Islamist parties.
Jamaat leaders in a recent meeting with Zia tried to convince her to revive the four-party alliance. But Zia said the alliance was “more of an electoral coalition” and it would be revived “at the right time”, the newspaper said.
Acting Jamaat chief Maqbul Ahmed and acting secretary general A.T.M. Azharul Islam, who were present at the meeting, refused to comment on the issue.
BNP senior joint secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said it is not time to go for a joint movement against the government, as the matter is yet to be discussed in the party forum.
Now on a visit to Saudi Arabia, Zia is expected to announce the opposition campaign against the Sheikh Hasina government.
“Influential sections” of the BNP are opposing revival of the alliance, the newspaper said.
Besides the Jamaat top brass, two BNP leaders - former minister Abdul Alim and lawmaker Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury - are also in jail on “war crimes” charges.
Zia, the widow of late president Ziaur Rahman who was assassinated in an army coup, has said she is not opposed to the trial, but wants them free of “political interference”.
The BNP and Jamaat participated in the last two general elections as allies. The alliance has remained inactive after its debacle in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
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